Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tracking You Online...What's Going On?

Many people have heard of the terms NSA, Cookies, online tracking, and data collection, but some don’t fully understand the potential risks and benefits of these things online. As annoying online tracking is, when used for national security purposes, it is important when used on that level.
Image Courtesy of Droid Life 

Online tracking can be used to improve business technique, and make online personalization easier and better. If you have ever seen advertisements on websites that seem to be the same subject of your recent searches, it is not a coincidence. According to The Wall Street Journal, advertisements are most likely using cookies to see what your recent searches are. In some cases this can be risky and an invasion of privacy, but can be avoided by turning of cookie collection in the privacy section of your computer. A positive side of this data collection is that it makes the websites you visit more personalized, and can show topics that you are more interesting in. In addition, it helps companies sell and attract more customers because they are portraying items or subjects that are of the user’s interest. Websites also may collect information to personalize the web page you are visiting. In some cases, the tracking of user information can be used in the wrong ways such as identity theft, but the majority of the websites that collect information don’t sell or give your information away. However, one must be careful of the amount of information they put out, or the sites they visit so that sites that are potential risks don’t use your information in the wrong way.

According to the Wall Street Journal, President Obama has stated in a speech "The bottom line is that people around the world—regardless of their nationality—should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account" This is an example of how our information is only being used in useful and beneficial ways. In addition, Obama has also decided to move bulk storage of information that is being collected from the NSA into safer and more secure computers. There is, however, about way the NSA is using collected data to enforce national security. According to The Washington Post, the NSA is using cookies to track and watch for activity done by hackers. A cookie is a small file that records and collects information that is done on things such as websites. This helps to make the internet a safer place despite the fact that user information is being collected. "The security of users' data is critical, which is why we've invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information" -Chief Executive Larry Page to Washington Post. By “Piggybacking” or collecting information from established cookies, the NSA and it’s British partner, GCHQ, are able to narrow down on users that may be possible hackers.

Overall, the protection of National Security and the people who use technology is made possible through the collection of online data. While the collection of data can be used for customization by websites, it is best used to protect National Security.

Blog Conclusion March 5, 2014

I chose this topic for my blog assignment because I felt like the issue of online tracking is a topic that is commonly discussed. In addition to it being a common topic, it is also a topic that is typically refereed to as bad or dangerous. While online tracking can have severe results, there are upsides to it if used for the right purposes. I wanted people to understand that when used for the right reasons, and in limitation, that online tracking can benefit an individual in ways to protect them, and to make their online experience better. To clarify, I believe that limited data collection for security purposes and basic things like online shopping is fairly reasonable. Data collecting can range from websites remembering passwords to the collection of bulk data, and it is important that we are careful about the info we put out. While reading other posts, I learned more about online issues and problems that I didn't even know existed. I also learned important things such as safe password creation and the dangers of using the internet. All the articles were detailed and well written, and I learned a lot about the internet and how it affects an individual. To answer some of the questions posted on my page I had looked at some of my sources and new sources to help clarify my answers. Overall, I feel that my page was engaging enough for readers and proved to be an interesting topic.


  1. i believe that the nsa should only collect information when they detect certain words or combinations of words. I believe that its wrong for companies to invade privacy just to make money

  2. Hello PinkDancer,
    I liked how you explained the concept of cookies and how they are used for tracking and advertising. Do you think that cookies are important for the NSA, or do you think that they are unecessary to be used on everyones computers? I think it is an invasion of privacy that they can be used without you knowing that they are tracking you.

    1. Hello annelise4494,
      You have some really good questions! The cookies that the NSA uses (known as PREF cookies) are established to locate people who may pose a threat to national security and people who may want to break into other user's information. These cookies are typically placed on suspicious websites that will only collect information when a user is doing an action that is suspicious like collecting data or downloading illegal content. I think that the PREF cookies are helpful for the NSA because they search for dangerous activities, but since they only collect suspicious data, it is not a huge invasion of privacy. Thanks for asking!

  3. Hey PinkDancer,
    You did a good job explaining what is going on in our computers and in websites. Do you think that the NSA is collecting information for national security? I think we should at least be given a notice that our information is being tracked.

    1. Hi LovelyDuck14!
      That's a great question! While I know from various reports put out from the White House that the NSA is collecting online data, you may not always be altered when you are being tracked when you move from different pages online. While you may be given a notice depending on the type of virus protection software your computer has, often you will have no idea that data is being collected. If you ever feel nervous about your data or information being collected, you can always turn off the cookies on your computer.

  4. I enjoyed reading the explanation of how collecting information from cookies can actually benefit us in our searches by personalizing them. I agree that there needs to be a balance between the reasonable collection of data for business and security purposes and the dangers of losing too much privacy to corporate interests and the government. Do you think there is any type of communication and information that should be "out of bounds" for both data banks and the government? E-mails, phone conversations? Blog posts? Texts? Thank you for contributing your ideas to the discussion, Pink Dancer! -- Ms. Riches

  5. Hi PinkDancer,
    You did a good job explaining just how our search history can relate to the adds that we see on the web pages we visit. Do you know what the websites that do sell/give out our information actually do with that information? Or do you know how much of our information they actually give out? I think that no website should be allowed to give out our personal information because it provides a risk factor because we don't know exactly what they will do with it.

    1. Hello Soccer9!
      Thank you for your great questions! If a website does sell or give away your information, it can only do so with the information your put out. Often time it will sell your information to advertisements or other sites that relate to the site that is selling it. For an example: If you put out your information on an insecure online dating or real estate site, there is a good chance that it will sell your information to a ad of the same genre. Thanks for asking!!


Our comments will be moderated, meaning someone will approve them before they appear. Please remember the authors are 9th graders, and have chosen a topic of interest to them to explore in more depth as it pertains to digital citizenship and media literacy.

Good comments
--are always related to the content of the post;
--consider the author and the purpose of the post;
--ask or answer a question;
--add meaningful information to the content topic;
--are constructively critical, and never hurtful;
--include personal connections to what the author wrote;
--follow the writing process.

We welcome your thoughtful contributions, especially those that might help us improve our work or expand our thinking on these topics.

If you choose the Anonymous option, please sign your name if comfortable. It is easier to respond to someone with a name. Thanks!